Title: The Cinema at Starlight Creek
Author: Alli Sinclair
Published: May 20th 2019
Publisher: Mira – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
A heart-stirring novel of loss, love and new hope set against the glamorous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood and a small Australian country town.
How far would you go to follow your dream?
Queensland, 1994: When location manager Claire Montgomery arrives in rural Queensland to work on a TV mini-series, she’s captivated by the beauty of Starlight Creek and the surrounding sugarcane fields. Working in a male-dominated industry is challenging, but Claire has never let that stop her pursuing her dreams-until now. She must gain permission to film at Australia’s most historically significant art deco cinema, located at Starlight Creek. But there is trouble ahead. The community is fractured and the cinema’s reclusive owner, Hattie Fitzpatrick, and her enigmatic great nephew, Luke Jackson, stand in her way, putting Claire’s career-launching project-and her heart-at risk.
Hollywood, 1950: Lena Lee has struggled to find the break that will catapult her into a star with influence. She longs for roles about strong, independent women but with Hollywood engulfed in politics and a censorship battle, Lena’s timing is wrong. Forced to keep her love affair with actor Reeves Garrity a secret, Lena puts her career on the line to fight for equality for women in an industry ruled by men. Her generous and caring nature steers her onto a treacherous path, leaving Lena questioning what she is willing to endure to get what she desires.
Can two women-decades apart-uncover lies and secrets to live the life they’ve dared to dream?
I remember when I first glimpsed the cover of Alli Sinclair’s latest novel, The Cinema at Starlight Creek back in January this year, and it literally took my breath away. After months of impatiently waiting, I finally had the chance to sit back and allow Alli Sinclair to carry me away across two magnificent narratives. In The Cinema at Starlight Creek, the reader is transported to 1950s Hollywood with actress Lena Lee in charge, while in 1994, Claire Montgomery, a location manager, hosts the events. This new novel from talented Australian storyteller Alli Sinclair will enthrall you from start to finish.
Two very different women head The Cinema at Starlight Creek. For one based in 1994, life revolves around the push to get an important production off the ground. Claire is hoping to use the old cinema location in the tiny rural township of Starlight Creek as the backdrop for her new TV miniseries. She faces many hurdles along the way, from gaining permission to use the cinema site, through to fending off opposition from the male dominated film industry. Claire risks it all in order to see her dream take full flight. Linked to Claire’s project in 1994, is the story of Lena Lee, a Hollywood starlet that longs to have that big break that will make her a household name. Through Lena’s story, we learn of the battles faced by women in the film industry in the 1950s. It is a tough road to success, but Lena is determined to make her mark on Hollywood. These two women, separated by place and time, both have an important path to take and it is a journey that will test their very limits.
I can barely believe this is All Sinclair’s fifth release. I have devoured each book Alli has lovingly poured her heart and soul into with open arms and The Cinema at Starlight Creek was no exception. It is definitely no secret that I absolutely adore dual timeline narratives and as Alli Sinclair is one of my most favourite authors, I was raring to go once this one settled into my hands.
For a dual timeline narrative, The Cinema at Starlight Creek reads very well. The transitions from 1994 to 1950 are handled with care and precision. Both time periods are illuminated precisely. I did feel like I had stepped foot in 1994 and 1950 respectively, thanks to Alli’s evocative prose. I know Alli prides herself on the accuracy of her research and yet again this has been injected into her narrative. The art deco cinema sequences were of great interest to me, I loved the focus on the history these buildings have to share. I particularly appreciated the chance to trace back to 1950s Hollywood and I was reminded of my secondary school studies in the media. Reading The Cinema at Starlight Creek was a nice chance to brush up on my pre-existing knowledge of The Hays Code, the unequal treatment of Hollywood actresses of the era and the rise of McCarthyism. I also enjoyed the period detail and the references to key figures during this golden age of Hollywood, it was a great addition to this enthralling novel.
In terms of the 1994 narrative, I really enjoyed this part of the novel. I genuinely loved Claire, she was a great character, she was extremely likeable, resourceful and enterprising. I desperately wanted her to succeed and achieve her pipe dream. Alli also balances out a fabulous storyline involving Claire. She provides us with an in-depth examination into Claire’s problems in her personal and professional life, which are also reflected to some degree in Lena Lee’s life in 1950. What an interesting narrative angle to take! Along with major themes of inequality, sexism, personal aspirations, love, romance, heartbreak, secrets, loyalty and endurance, The Cinema at Starlight Creek is a book that has so much to offer the reader.
For those who appreciate well rendered small town Australian settings, expect to be dazzled by the descriptions offered up by Alli Sinclair. Starlight Creek, the central locale base for this new story from Alli Sinclair, is captured so vividly. I felt completely caught up in the moment while reading this novel, and it was like I was strolling along the local streets of Starlight Creek with Claire, Luke, Hattie and co while I sat comfortably in my reading chair. What a sensational reading experience.
The blurb doesn’t mention the direct connection between the two leading ladies of this story, Claire and Lena. I did start to wonder when I was a good way into the book, how and when the link between these two strong women was going to be made. Once I began the process of actively connecting the dots thanks to a few gentle hints, I was pleasantly surprised when my assumption was indeed correct! It was a nice feeling and it was almost a huge relief when I got it right! Personally, I loved this connection, it felt so right and with the touch of Alli’s signature blend of romance to enjoy, complete with a fitting ending, I felt my feet lift off the ground once I reached the end of this Australian gem. Let The Cinema at Starlight Creek entertain you and inspire you to reach for the stars!
The Cinema at Starlight Creek by Alli Sinclair was published on May 20th by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Cinema at Starlight Creek, Alli Sinclair, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Cinema at Starlight Creek is book #74 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge